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Rethinking the origins of ‘Western’ imperialism in China, 1790-1860: global constellations and imperial policies
journal contributionposted on 02.07.2015, 12:36 by Thoralf KleinThoralf Klein
In the light of recent scholarship, this article revisits the conventional understanding of the origins of ‘Western’ imperialism in China. I argue, in particular, that global factors must be taken into account to explain the silver crisis that precipitated Qing China’s conflict with the ‘West’, as well as the British decision to go to war and ‘Western’ military performance in the two Opium Wars. Utilizing concepts from New Qing History, I will further demonstrate that although Britain and other imperialist powers tried to impose their concept of sovereign equality on the Qing Empire by force, the treaty port system that evolved from the Opium Wars also owed a great deal to Qing Imperial policies of border control and legal arrangements. Instead of Chinese passivity, I emphasize Qing agency in the establishment of ‘Western’ transnational imperialism in China.
- Social Sciences
- Politics and International Studies